Southern coalfields to take share of 400 million opioid settlement

WVVA News learned more on Tuesday about how that money may be spent in the Southern coalfields.
WVVA News learned more on Tuesday about how that money may be spent in the Southern coalfields.(ANNIE MOORE)
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 3:53 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - After West Virginia cities and counties reached a 400 million dollar agreement on Monday with three of the country’s biggest drugmakers, WVVA News is learning more about how counties in the Southern coalfields could benefit. The drug distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health Inc., agreed to the payout in response to the local government’s allegations that the companies fueled the opioid epidemic in the state.

Chris Davis of Wooten, Davis, Hussell, & Johnson represented Raleigh County, Summers County, Monroe County, and Lewisburg in the case. He said the money allows for the settlement to be paid out over 12 years and will be focused in three key areas -- education, healthcare, and law enforcement.

“I believe this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, just like the opioid crisis. It had to be developed over many years and it’s going to take many years to unravel those effects. This money will allow for consistency and an attack on the opioid crisis.”

Twenty-four percent of the funds will go directly to cities and counties based on a formula accounting for each area’s damages from the crisis. Raleigh County, for example, will receive 5.5 percent of the funds.

Seventy-four percent of the settlement will go to a statewide opioid abatement fund divided into six different regions. For the first seven years, he said money allocated will stay in those regions and be dedicated specifically to the drug crisis.

According to Raleigh County Commission Pres. Dave Tolliver, the commission plans to meet with key stakeholders in the drug crisis soon to develop a plan.

One project Tolliver said the commission would like to see brought to fruition is a drug diversion program in local schools involving the sheriff’s department. “We want students to see the effects on the body of using drugs.”

The settlement excludes two local governments, the City of Huntington and Cabell County, which sued the three companies in federal court. Huntington and Cabell County lost their federal court case on July 4.

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